"Diane, it is now 3:54 p.m. and I'm just about to start my second afternoon shift at the perfume counter of Horne's Department Store in Twin Peaks. Oh, and this is Audrey Horne, by the way - if you're wondering, which you probably are. Agent Cooper has let me borrow you…or rather, let me borrow this device, to see if I can surreptitiously record his upcoming interview with Mr. Emory Battis, the General Manager of the store, from the walk-in closet in his office. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised when he agreed to this little indulgence when I put it to him in his room last night. After all, he is only here to investigate Laura's murder. I'd thought that he wouldn't have time to indulge in this pet project of mine, but after I told him how easily Battis can be manipulated, and the apparent connection between him and One-Eyed Jack's, he admitted that Laura and Ronette could've been targeted, and/or groomed, while working here. So he agreed to spend 20 minutes or so with Mr. Battis, on the off-chance that something useful might be learned – and also, I suspect, to have a little down-time fun. He then spent at least that long explaining what I was to do and when I was to do it, going over every step of the way – for instance, he's going to arrive at the store at 4:14 p.m., notice me on the perfume counter, come on over and express surprise I'm there, and then request me to ask Mr. Battis to come and see him while he has a look at the sports coats. That will then give me the chance to slip into his closet. Why 4:14 p.m.? I don't know, I guess you know his little quirks and eccentricities better than most. Still, while he went over it at great length, it gave me the chance to edge a little closer to him on the bed, pretending to be intently listening – I don't think he noticed, if he did he didn't let on or seemed to mind. Wow, this talking-to-a-machine thing is addictive, I've got to clock-on in 3 minutes, and I haven't finished this coffee yet. Still not sure I like it black, but it's what Agent Cooper drinks, so…Anyway, I might speak to you later, Diane. This is Audrey Horne, Horne's Department Store cafeteria, 3:57 p.m. P.S Must remember not to have a cigarette in Battis' closet this time!"
"Er…excuse me, Agent Cooper?" said Emory Battis to the man intently inspecting the new range of winter sports coats. "If you're interested in menswear, then perhaps Mr. Tremayne would be better suited to help you out?"
Cooper slowly straightened to his full height and looked at the General Manager with, what he hoped was, his most intimidating stare. "Mr Batters. Special Agent Dale Cooper, Federal Bureau of Investigation. I don't suppose there's any chance of a little, how should I put it...incentive on this black sports coat?"
"It's, um, Battis actually – and I'm sorry, but any kind of…inducement would be highly unethical. It wouldn't matter if you were the President, I'm sure you can understand that?"
"Of course, Mr. Battis, I was merely… fishing. You don't know how often people try to curry favours with the Bureau by offering up little encouragements, it's tantamount to blackmail in my book. It's nice to know that decency and honesty still have their place in today's society – in Twin Peaks, at least. I must say, it's a terrific store you have here, especially for such a small town. Perhaps you could show me around later, but first I'd like to talk to you about Laura Palmer and Ronette Pulaski – maybe your office would be a better place for that than the Menswear Dept.? Sorry to have dragged you out here. Shall we?"
"So, tell me about the Perfume Counter. Is it store policy to have it staffed with part-time schoolgirls?"
"You make it sound like it's something sordid, Agent Cooper. It happens to be store policy, initiated by Mr. Horne himself, that the Perfume Counter be staffed by the brightest and most beautiful ladies that our small town has to offer – it's a prestige position, you know. There's always stiff competition to be among the few chosen."
"Talking of stiff, I take it you – er, like to keep a firm grip on the selection process?"
"Uh, well I do double up as the Personnel Manager, here at Horne's."
"Where do you keep the casting couch? Here or the Great Northern? Talking of bright and beautiful, I didn't know Audrey Horne was working here until I saw her just now – you must be pleased to have a new generation of Horne's on board, in a prestige position at that?"
Battis squirmed in his seat, and it was clear to Cooper that he wasn't at all pleased that Audrey was here – which pleased him immensely. Eventually Battis responded. "To be perfectly honest, if I'd had my way, she'd be in a less conspicuous area – like gift wrapping, certainly not in retail. However, I had little choice."
"Oh really? Her father, you mean?"
Battis continued to squirm. "No, it was her. Blackmail, can you believe it? Threatened me, right here in my own office."
Cooper had already heard it from Audrey's point of view, but couldn't resist the temptation to land him in it. "Sounds like she's a right conniving little bitch. Hard to believe from the little contact I've had with her at the Great Northern."
"Bitch is right," continued Battis, digging himself deeper in Cooper's eyes. "Sat on the desk and threatened to rip her dress if I didn't give it to her – the job, I mean."
"Glad you made that clear," joked Cooper wondering how far he could go. "Though your desk's certainly big enough if you had to! We seem to have gone off topic, somewhat, sorry about that. Laura Palmer – how long had she been working here?"
Cooper sees that the sudden change in direction disconcerts Battis, as he intended it to do, and he can almost hear the clunk as his brain attempts to change gear. "Er, well I have her personnel file here – let's see – last March, so that's nearly a year. Lovely girl, such a waste."
Cooper removes Laura's photo from the file and stares at it intently. "The death of anyone at such an early age is a waste, Mr. Battis – but, you're right, Laura's death seems to have touched the whole town in ways I've rarely seen elsewhere. The amount of people I've encountered already who were enriched by her presence in their lives is quite astonishing. You know, I only met her twice, but each time I could see that she was possessed of a most singular beauty."
He pretends to be lost in reflection, gazing intently at Laura, hoping that his specific choice of words will trigger a confused response from Battis. Just as he begins to despair, Battis finally cottons on. "You met her?"
"But…I thought you…aren't you here investigating her murder?"
Cooper feigns his realization of the misunderstanding, before attempting to clarify. "Sorry, Mr. Battis, what I meant to convey was that I didn't actually meet her - while she was alive – I merely saw her corpse. The first time was just after she had been brought in from Black Lake. I had cause to examine her body, while it lay on the mortuary slab, just before Dr. Fielding conducted the Autopsy. Do you know she had…"
Suddenly standing up, Battis breaks into Cooper's statement with panic in his eyes and a sheen on his forehead. "Excuse me a moment, please, need a drink of water," before hurriedly exiting his office. Cooper smiles to himself, and turns toward the closet where, to his surprise, Audrey is standing in the now-open doorway lifting his recorder to her lips.
"Remind me again, Diane, how Special Agent Dale Cooper, Federal Bureau of Investigation, just described me? Oh yes, silly me, it was 'conniving little bitch.' How could I possibly forget such a glowing epithet?"
With a large grin on his face, Cooper counters her accusation. "Just seeing how deep he could dig a hole, Audrey. He really doesn't like you very much, does he?"
"Yeah, well, the feeling's mutual, the old slug. Oh, and you will pay for that remark – someday. I promise you that, Special Agent."
"Oh, stop whining, and get back in the closet – he'll be back any second."
"Don't overdo the innuendo. Oh, and don't forget the unicorn."
"Who's doing this, me or you? Get, I can hear him…"
Audrey barely had time to step back into the closet and close the door, while he had to hurriedly compose himself again and present a serious façade, as Battis opened the door, carrying a plastic cup of water. Sitting himself down again, Battis apologised. "I'm terribly sorry about that, Agent Cooper. It's just that talk of corpses on mortuary slabs made me come over all queasy."
"No need to apologise, Mr Battis. I should've been more mindful that you haven't my familiarity with death, both seeing it and talking about it. If you've quite recovered now?" Battis nodded his head but, to Cooper, he still looked rather pale and sweaty. "In deference to you, I'll not finish up what I was mentioning before you exited. The second time I saw Laura, though, had certain comic overtones – if your sense of humour is incredibly dark, that is. It was the morning of her funeral, and my colleague Albert Rosenfield, a forensics genius but acerbic around people, had practically started a fight in the morgue. He wanted to carry out some last minute tests, while Dr. Hayward and Benjamin Horne wanted the body prepared for the funeral service. Anyway, Albert insulted Sheriff Truman – again – and Harry landed a right hook on him, sent him flying. Landed right on top of Laura! There was a shocked silence from everyone present, as if we all realised that we were complicit in an act of sacrilege, so I got everyone out of there. Alone with her body, I noticed that her left arm, which before had been crossed on her chest, was now hanging down by her side. Gently picking it up, I put it back on her chest and made a promise to her that I wouldn't leave Twin Peaks until I'd brought her murderer to justice. I intend to keep that promise Mr. Battis. Over the last few days I've been discovering that Laura was far from the perfect homecoming queen that everyone thought she was – she harboured dark secrets and insatiable lusts. Mr. Battis, if you're a party to any of these secrets and lusts – then please let me know. I need to know everything I possibly can about her life, in order to understand her death."
Cooper looks up at Battis to see him gulp some water down, his eyes darting back and forth across the desk, desperately trying to compose a suitable lie. He can't help but think that some people are just too easily read. How had Ben Horne promoted this man to such a position? Eventually Battis concocts a response that he must think is suitable. "I'm not sure I can really help you there, um…Agent Cooper. As far as this store is concerned, her work was always exemplary. I'd heard the odd intimation that she may have used drugs occasionally but, I can assure you, there was no hint of it here, and it had no discernible affect on her work."
Just the kind of saying-nothing response Cooper had been waiting for, and so, casually plucking an object from his jacket pocket, he pulled the trigger. "That's fair enough, Mr Battis. So, maybe, you can tell me what this is?" And with that, he delicately placed a small glass unicorn onto Battis' desk. "It was found in her safety deposit box, together with a copy of 'Fleshworld' magazine and $10,000 in cash. An entry in her diary states that you gave it to her, but there's no indication as to why. All very intriguing isn't it?"
All of this was a lie, of course, carefully choreographed out with Audrey's help last night. The glass unicorn had actually been given to one of her colleagues, Jenny, yesterday afternoon right here in this office, and picked up by Audrey after Jenny had inadvertently left it behind on Battis' desk. There was no mention of a unicorn in Laura's diary. In fact, the only mention of Battis, anywhere in its pages, seemed to indicate that Laura's opinion of him was similar, if not lower, than Audrey's.
Cooper looked up at Battis, as the silence lengthened, to see him staring at the unicorn with eyes seemingly on stalks. Like a fish out of water, he thought, which Battis most assuredly was. "It, er…it was a gift. For a job well done, here at the store. I give them out occasionally. To the girls on the perfume counter, mainly, as a small token of appreciation. In providing exceptional customer service…"
Before he could start waffling ad infinitum, Cooper interjected. "So why was it in her safety deposit box? Are you familiar with 'Fleshworld' magazine?"
Battis' gulp must have been audible from the perfume counter. "Agent…er Cooper, I can assure you…I'd never heard of…of 'Fleshworld' before this afternoon. As to why Laura placed her unicorn in her safety deposit box…I couldn't possibly imagine. It's not like it's particularly valuable, I have a box of them here in my desk. They're just little thank-you gifts - she'd had it since last Summer."
"Another little mystery to be solved, by the looks of things," remarked Cooper. "Believe me, they're beginning to mount up. It's quite remarkable how much living Laura managed to cram into her seventeen years. Was she friends with Ronette, do you know? Did they socialize outside of the store?"
Once again Cooper's sudden and deliberate change of direction completely throws Battis and he waits for a few seconds for the man to catch up. "To be honest with you, Agent Cooper, what our members of staff get up to out of store hours is purely a matter for them, so long as there's nothing detrimental to the store's image. Um...Ronette has been…let's see, with us since early last year. She started just a few weeks before Laura, in fact. It seems they mainly worked opposing afternoon shifts, but the few times I noticed them working together, they…er, seemed to get along. Whether that translated to out of store hours, I'm not a party to."
"Of course, Mr. Battis, I fully understand. It's a shame that Ronette remains in a coma, it leaves so much of their story untold. Forensics can only get us so far. Though the awful things she must've been witness to, if she did actually witness any of them - it isn't going to be easy for her to deal with when, or if, she ever comes out of it. Tell me, have you ever heard of a One-Eyed Jack's? There are several intimations in Laura's diary, always in association with Ronette."
Another lie on Cooper's part, but by this time he was having too much fun seeing Battis jump around like a trout on a fishing line. And Battis was jumping around all right. "I…er, think I've heard of it, yes. Isn't it that gambling joint just across the border? I'm not a gambler, myself, but I know a few people in town that have been there."
Cooper gives Battis a large grin. "That's not what I've heard. I have it on good authority, namely the word of Sheriff Harry S. Truman, that One-Eyed Jack's is, not just a casino, but primarily a bordello."
"A bordello, a brothel, a whorehouse, a cathouse, a house of ill repute. Basically, it's a place where men pay to have sex with prostitutes."
"Er, yes Agent Cooper – I know what the word means, I just wasn't aware…I mean, are you sure? It's virtually on our doorstep here."
Cooper had to remind himself not to seem too happy as he was almost ready to take his major pot-shot at Battis. "I've learnt, in recent days, never to discount the local knowledge of Harry and his deputies, Mr. Battis. If they are of the opinion that One-Eyed Jack's is a bordello, then it's my opinion also. So, if Laura and Ronette worked here at Horne's, and also worked, as has been hinted, at One-Eyed Jack's – is it just a coincidence? Or is there a connection between the two establishments?"
"Connection?" Battis virtually choked on the word and proceeded to finish his cup of water. "What do you mean connection between the two? What possible…"
"Easy there, Mr. Battis, think of your blood pressure. I'm just hypothesizing that possibly, maybe, Laura and Ronette could've been targeted here to work there. It's just a thought Mr. Battis, but I want you to give it serious consideration. Is it possible that there could be some… pervert among your personnel? You're in charge of recruitment, so surely you'd know if anyone here has a criminal record, or has been prosecuted for sex offences – maybe even just worked previously in some branch of the sex industry? Could that same person have then targeted them both…for death?" Cooper had so very nearly lost it when he'd implied that Battis was a pervert, and he felt momentary guilt that maybe he was having too much fun here, what with Laura having been so recently laid to rest. Something to ponder over at a later time, perhaps, together with his reasons for doing this. He'd always trusted his intuition to get him to the right answer, no matter how off-beat his methodology might look to others – but would he have been doing this if someone other than Audrey had suggested it? Audrey - who he had noticed edging imperceptibly closer to him last night, while he pretended ignorance of it. Audrey - who even now, was standing not ten feet away in the closet, with her red shoes and lipstick.
With a start he realized that, while lost in his own thoughts, there had been silence in the office.
Glancing over he saw that the 'fish out of water' expression that Battis had been trying to perfect all afternoon, was now damn near close to completion. Eventually he managed to blurt out a reply of sorts. "You can be rest assured, Agent Cooper, that all vigorous…rigorous checks are carried out before anyone is employed here, and I sincerely doubt that anyone here could be implicated in what you describe."
"Well, you may be right about that, you may not. I'd like someone from the Sheriff's office to have a look at all of your personnel files within the next two days. If you could prepare them, I'll get someone to pick them up tomorrow morning, if you have no objection. There's one final thing, before I close out this interview, that I'd like to ask you – and this isn't related to the case, as such, but merely a desire for your opinion on someone. Tell me, what do you think of Benjamin Horne?"
Cooper and Battis simultaneously look down at the now empty cup. Cooper smiled. Battis grimaced and tried to clear his throat without choking. After a seemingly interminable sequence of gulps, swallows and coughs, Battis rather hoarsely responds. "Mr. Horne? A fine man…A brilliant man. A true entrepreneur. It's an honour to be his representative in this corner of the Horne business empire."
Cooper slowly shakes his head. "Emory, I'm not trying to catch you out or anything – this conversation isn't going to get back to him, so there's no need to tow the official party line. I'm just interested in your honest evaluation of the man, to see if it roughly equates to mine. If it's any easier I'll give you my impressions first. In all honesty I think the man's a bit of a shyster." True to form, that elicited another series of coughs while Cooper continued. "My colleague Albert, who I mentioned earlier, made an observation that also ties into my views rather succinctly. He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that Mr. Horne's 'position in the community guaranteed an irritating way of expressing himself.' And surely the size of his cigars must equate to, how should I phrase this - a deficiency elsewhere?" Cooper distinctly heard two coughs there, but luckily Battis was otherwise occupied. "I've met men like Benjamin Horne in every corner of our country, and there's one overriding character trait they've all got in common: excessive greed – not just for the obvious things like money and power in the community, but of more sinister desires like sexual appetite and a willingness to go to extreme lengths to get what they want. Now I'm not saying that Mr. Horne has all, or any, of these in his arsenal – but it wouldn't surprise me in the least. And there's one other thing about him that makes my skin crawl – I swear he's part-reptile." He can see Battis looking at him rather oddly, but he hasn't the slightest care what Battis thinks about him, and so continues on his merry way. "You know that feeling you get after touching a snake, or a lizard? The hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you get an overwhelming desire to wipe your hands? I can't explain it, but I just don't trust the man. I can't see that he has the best interests of the town at heart – I mean, really, what is that 'Ghostwood' development all about? How could that possibly benefit Twin Peaks more than a fully-operational sawmill? Anyway, those are my impressions, what about you?"
He doesn't expect Battis to say anything harsh or controversial about the man, so decides to give him a minute to say something even vaguely interesting, before wrapping the interview up, and getting some much-needed coffee inside him. "Well, Agent Cooper, I happen to think you've seriously misjudged him, probably got off on the wrong foot initially. He's a great man, an absolute pillar of the community…"
Cooper had already tuned him out and was giving more consideration to the state of his nails, where couldn't help noticing that his cuticles needed some work. Mentally scheduling a visit to his manicurist when he got back to D.C., he tuned in again to see what platitudes Battis was doling out.
"…salt of the earth, really. You only have to see the economic forecasts for the coming fiscal year to see that he knows his stuff."
Deciding that was enough, Cooper butted in. "Maybe I'll do that, Mr. Battis. I appreciate you making time for this little chat, it's definitely provided some much-needed clarity on a number of issues, which I'll get Sheriff Truman up to speed on as soon as I get back." It had done nothing of the kind, but he wanted to see that familiar look of panic on Battis' face one last time before he left. He stood up and offered his hand to shake. "If you could prepare those personnel records, like I asked, it would be much appreciated. And now, if you don't mind, could you possibly escort me to your cafeteria? I desperately need coffee, and I'm sure you need a drink of something as well."
Battis shook Cooper's hand and pointed towards the door. "It's been a pleasure to help. If you'd like to follow me, Agent Cooper, the cafeteria is just off to the left here." Following him out, Cooper stopped briefly in the doorway and looked towards the closet, where he saw Audrey ease the door open to peer out at him. Giving her a wink, he turned and followed Battis towards the cafeteria.
"Diane, this is Audrey, again. Everything went as planned and I'm now safely back at the perfume counter. I've no idea where Jenny is, probably off powdering her nose. There's hardly a customer around, so I should be safe talking to you for a minute or so, until Agent Cooper comes to reclaim you. I can't believe Battis managed to talk for so long without saying anything remotely interesting. Maybe that's how he got to where he is now? Uh-oh, here's Agent Cooper now, so long Diane, it's been a pleasure to have had your company in the closet – and that's not something I thought I'd ever say to another woman! Hello, Agent Cooper. What did you make of Mr. Battis?"
Cooper grinned at her, in that way that made her knees weak. "Audrey, you were right. The man's a slug. A boring slug at that. I'm not sure he said anything of interest – never mind, it was still entertaining, in a tortuous kind of way. He had nothing to do with Laura's death, obviously, but I'd still like to close down this prostitution railroad he's got running. I'll talk it over with Harry." He reached for his trusty recorder and leant in conspiratorially. "Do you fancy coming to my room tonight, we can replay the tape, have a laugh?"
Audrey slyly smiled at him. "It's a date, Agent Cooper. I'll see you later."
Cooper halted in mid-turn and gave her his hardest stare. The one that never had any affect on her. "It's not a date, Audrey." And with that he strode towards the exit, tucking his recorder into his inner jacket pocket.
Audrey watched her Special Agent leave, looked around the perfume counter once again and let out a large sigh. "Diane, speaking as one woman to another - do you think I have any chance?"